Ezekiel Chapter 17 Parable of the Two Eagles

Jul 2nd, 2009 | By | Category: Ezekiel, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Ezekiel Chapter 17 Parable of the Two Eagles

Ezek. 17:1 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

Ezek. 17:2 Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel;

Verses 1–10 pertain to a parable of two eagles.

Ezek. 17:3 And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; A great eagle with great wings, longwinged, full of feathers, which had divers colours, came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar:

The first eagle, described as “great,” with great, long wings that were full of diverse-colored feathers, pictured King Nebuchadnezzar, the head of gold in the “great” Babylonian Empire (Dan. 2:38). Wings are used for flight, speed, power, and coverage. The variety of color in the feathers represented the diverse peoples in the empire with a diversity of talent.

Jeremiah, a contemporary of Ezekiel, referred to the speed of the Babylonian army, saying it was “swifter than eagles” (Jer. 4:13). He also likened this enemy of Israel, which came from the north, to a lion and a “destroyer of the Gentiles.” Through Jeremiah, God told Israel that the judgment was coming and the enemy would be victorious. “I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction. The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant” (Jer. 4:6,7). The lion and the eagle symbolize ferocity and swiftness, respectively. In Daniel 7:1–4, the kingdom of Babylon is likened to a lion (king of the beasts) with the wings of an eagle (king of the birds). An eagle spreads its wings to paralyze its prey; a lion roars.

Ezek. 17:4 He cropped off the top of his young twigs, and carried it into a land of traffic; he set it in a city of merchants.

Ezek. 17:5 He took also of the seed of the land, and planted it in a fruitful field; he placed it by great waters, and set it as a willow tree.

Nebuchadnezzar took of the “seed of the land” (the common people of Israel) and the “highest branch of the cedar” (the elite). In other words, the king of Babylon took as hostages and captives to Babylon the best of the common people as well as the best of the nobility, the royalty. Specifically, the “highest branch” of verse 3 was King Jehoiachin. Babylon was “a land of traffic,” “a city of merchants,” and “a fruitful field … by great waters.” The king took the best talent back to his own land and honored them according to their obedience.

Ezek. 17:6 And it grew, and became a spreading vine of low stature, whose branches turned toward him, and the roots thereof were under him: so it became a vine, and brought forth branches, and shot forth sprigs.

2 Chronicles 36 furnishes information on the reigns of the three last rulers of Judah, all of whom were puppet kings:

1. Jehoiakim, placed on the throne by the Pharaoh of Egypt, reigned 11 years and was then taken to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar.

2. Jehoiachin reigned only three months before he was taken to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar.

3. Zedekiah, put on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar, made an oath in God’s name and reigned for 11 years.

The first eagle (Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon) cropped off the highest branch and twigs of the cedar tree (Israel); that is, Nebuchadnezzar took the cream of the crop of Israel to Babylon.

Among those in this earlier captivity prior to 606 BC were Daniel, the three Hebrews, and Jehoiachin. The Israelites prospered in captivity in that Daniel and the three Hebrews were elevated to positions of authority. Nevertheless, in spite of their honor, which was the exception, the “spreading vine” (Israel) was of “low stature” in that it was captive and submissive.

Ezek. 17:7 There was also another great eagle with great wings and many feathers: and, behold, this vine did bend her roots toward him, and shot forth her branches toward him, that he might water it by the furrows of her plantation.

The second eagle, which came on the scene after the first, pictured the Pharaoh of Egypt. “This vine,” Israel, bent its roots toward Pharaoh so that “he might water it by the furrows of her plantation.” In time Nebuchadnezzar overcame Egypt, and Israel no longer had an alliance with Egypt then. King Zedekiah broke his covenant with Babylon, and the Lord punished him and the nation as a result.

Ezek. 17:8 It was planted in a good soil by great waters, that it might bring forth branches, and that it might bear fruit, that it might be a goodly vine.

Ezek. 17:9 Say thou, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Shall it prosper? shall he not pull up the roots thereof, and cut off the fruit thereof, that it wither? it shall wither in all the leaves of her spring, even without great power or many people to pluck it up by the roots thereof.

Ezek. 17:10 Yea, behold, being planted, shall it prosper? shall it not utterly wither, when the east wind toucheth it? it shall wither in the furrows where it grew.

The faith Israel put in her alliance with Egypt did not prosper. Twice it was pulled up by the roots.

Ezek. 17:11 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

Ezek. 17:12 Say now to the rebellious house, Know ye not what these things mean? Tell them, Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon;

Ezek. 17:13 And hath taken of the king’s seed, and made a covenant with him, and hath taken an oath of him: he hath also taken the mighty of the land:

Ezek. 17:14 That the kingdom might be base, that it might not lift itself up, but that by keeping of his covenant it might stand.

After giving the riddle and agitating the Israelites’ minds, the Lord provided an interpretation through Ezekiel. The first eagle (Nebuchadnezzar) cropped off the highest branch (royalty) of the symbolic tree (Israel). The king of Babylon took Jehoiachin and princes to Babylon as captives. The common people were taken as hostages so that they would not rebel. However, before being taken captive to Babylon for 70 years, the last kings of Israel made an alliance with Egypt to get arms and power, but their efforts were fruitless.

Nebuchadnezzar set up Jehoiachin as a puppet king in Jehoiachim’s stead. Subsequently, after Jehoiachin had reigned only three months, Nebuchadnezzar took him as a hostage to Babylon. When the cream of the crop were taken to Babylon, Israel was intentionally left without much leadership material to minimize the likelihood of an uprising. Next Nebuchadnezzar put Zedekiah, another king of his choosing, on the throne at Jerusalem.

Ezek. 17:15 But he rebelled against him in sending his ambassadors into Egypt, that they might give him horses and much people. Shall he prosper? shall he escape that doeth such things? or shall he break the covenant, and be delivered?

Ezek. 17:16 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely in the place where the king dwelleth that made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant he brake, even with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die.

What did Israel do under Jehoiachin? The king rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar by sending secret ambassadors to Egypt in an attempt to get Egypt as an ally to break Nebuchadnezzar’s yoke of bondage. Ezekiel says, “Do not think you will get away with enlisting aid from Egypt. The Babylonian captivity is a lesson from the Lord, and hence you cannot get out from under the burden.”

Nebuchadnezzar had made Zedekiah promise to be his vassal by Jehovah’s name, by an oath. Judah should have respected the oath because it was made in God’s name.

Ezek. 17:17 Neither shall Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company make for him in the war, by casting up mounts, and building forts, to cut off many persons: Ezek. 17:18 Seeing he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, when, lo, he had given his hand, and hath done all these things, he shall not escape.

Ezek. 17:19 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; As I live, surely mine oath that he hath despised, and my covenant that he hath broken, even it will I recompense upon his own head.

Ezek. 17:20 And I will spread my net upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare, and I will bring him to Babylon, and will plead with him there for his trespass that he hath trespassed against me.

Ezek. 17:21 And all his fugitives with all his bands shall fall by the sword, and they that remain shall be scattered toward all winds: and ye shall know that I the LORD have spoken it.

Zedekiah hoped that Egypt would deliver Israel from Nebuchadnezzar, but a net was spread to snare Zedekiah. When he tried to escape, he was captured. The “fugitives” who fled with Zedekiah were all killed, including his sons, who were taken to Riblah on Israel’s border and executed. After Zedekiah saw his two sons get killed, his eyes were put out and he was taken, blind, to Babylon. Remember, these verses were a prophecy—Jerusalem had not been captured yet. Later, when the series of events had transpired, not only was Ezekiel exonerated in the eyes of the people, but Zedekiah realized that Ezekiel’s prophecy was a true one and that he was being punished for breaking his covenant with Nebuchadnezzar, made in God’s name.

The point is that a covenant made in God’s name must be kept. The same principle applied with the Gibeonites in Joshua’s day (Josh. 9:3–27). Although the Gibeonites obtained a covenant through deceit (stale bread, worn-out shoes, etc., to prove they came from a far distance), the covenant had to be honored because it was made in God’s name.

Comment: The same principle applies to one who consecrates but with reserve. That agreement stands. One cannot say later, “My consecration was not accepted.”

Ezek. 17:22 Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent:

The “highest branch,” Jehoiachin, was already in Babylon when blind Zedekiah was taken there. Thus there were two kings of Judah in Babylon for a while. There Zedekiah died in  prison, but in the 37th year, Jehoiachin was raised to the king’s table. Matthew 1:11 shows that Messiah came through his lineage (“Jechonias” is Jehoiachin/Jeconiah). When eventually Cyrus issued the decree to permit Jews to go back to Israel, the returnees were primarily of Judah, and Messiah’s lineage is traced through them.

Ezek. 17:23 In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar: and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell.

God planted the returned exiles from Babylon in the “mountain of the height of Israel.” They prospered and Israel revived. Out of the cut-down, dried element came forth the tender branch of Messiah.

This chapter contains a double allegory. The two eagles pertain to natural Israel. This last section pertains partially to natural Israel, out of which came a remnant prepared to receive Messiah.

Ezek. 17:24 And all the trees of the field shall know that I the LORD have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish: I the LORD have spoken and have done it.

Eventually the seedling (returnees) planted on the mountaintop of Israel will become the Kingdom. At the First Advent, the fruit of Messiah and the apostles was produced. From the same area will come forth the Kingdom, in which all the nations (trees) will do obeisance to God. Hence verse 24 is a promise of restitution.

Jesus said at his First Advent, “If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:31). From a position of exaltation, Israel was abased, exalted, and abased—and will be permanently exalted in the Kingdom.

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